Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Andromeda polifolia – bog-rosemary

 

Distribution map

Click here to view an interactive map of the Northern Ireland dataset as currently collated by CEDaR.
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Andromeda polifolia L.
Family: Ericaceae

The bog rosemary is a small evergreen sub-shrub with round pink flowers occurring on raised bogs. In Ireland, it is mostly found on the bogs of the central plain. It is distributed across northern regions of North America, Asia and Europe. The plants in eastern North America are sometimes regarded as a distinct subspecies or species (A. glaucophylla).

In brief

  • Found only on lowland raised bogs
  • The few Northern Ireland sites are outliers of the main area of occurrence which is the central plain of Ireland
  • Declining because of destruction of the bog habitat and lost entirely from County Down since 1927
  • Flowers in May and June
  • Rarely sets seed
  • Protected under Schedule 8 of the Northern Ireland Wildlife Order.

Species description
Evergreen perennial sub-shrub growing to about 20cm, with slender stems and long narrow leaves (superficially like those of true rosemary) which are dark green on the upper sides. The sides of the leaves curl under, partially hiding their white undersides. The pink flowers, produced in May and June are rounded bell-shaped, typical of those found in many members of the heather family. The fruit is a dry capsule containing many small seeds.

Life cycle
The plant is a perennial dwarf shrub reproducing by seed, but this is rarely produced.

Similar species
There are no species with which bog rosemary could be confused.

How to see this species
Among sites in public ownership are Ballynahone Bog and Peatlands Park. It is found only on lowland raised bogs and flowers in May and June.

Current status
The species is currently known from seven sites within Northern Ireland in Counties Armagh, Londonderry, Antrim and Fermanagh. In County Down it was formerly known from bogs in the vicinity of Donaghadee, but has not been seen there since 1927 and is presumed extinct in the county. It appears to be absent from County Tyrone. Bog rosemary is listed as a Schedule 8 species under the Northern Ireland Wildlife Order.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • It is a scarce and declining species within Northern Ireland

Its habitat is threatened with destruction.

Threats/Causes of decline
Bog rosemary only grows on lowland raised bogs which have suffered great loss and damage over the past few hundred years, mainly caused by their use as a fuel source, or by drainage, or exploitation for horticultural peat extraction. The root cause is a lack of appreciation of the value and importance of this habitat type; thus in County Londonderry bog rosemary was unknown until discovered at Moneystaghan in 1976, but this site was taken over for waste tipping sometime after 1990 and the survival of bog rosemary there now seems unlikely.

Conservation of this species

Current action

  • The plant is listed under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife Order (NI) 1985
  • Some sites are protected such as Ballynahone Bog (County Londonderry) which is a Ramsar site, a Special Area of Conservation and a National Nature Reserve, and Peatlands Park (County Armagh) which is a SAC and ASSI
  • Lowland raised bog is now subject to a Habitat Action Plan at UK and Northern Ireland levels.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • The status of bog rosemary will be surveyed and monitored and appropriate conservation action undertaken if required
  • Carry out field investigation to establish whether or not bog rosemary still survives at Moneystaghan Moss, County Londonderry.

What you can do
You can assist by helping to monitor the health and size of populations. Visits to historic sites and damaged sites are valuable in establishing if the plant continues to survive. Any sites additional to those currently known would be of great interest. All records should be reported to either the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) or to CEDaR, National Museums Northern Ireland, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Co. Down, BT18 0EU. Tel: 028 9039 5256, email CEDaR.info [at] magni.org.uk.

Further information

Links
Ballynahone Bog National Nature Reserve

Ballynahone Bog Ramsar Site

Bog rosemary at Peatlands Park

Northern Ireland Lowland Raised Bog Habitat Action Plan

UK Lowland Raised Bog Habitat Action Plan

Flora of Northern Ireland

Literature
Hackney, P. (1992). Stewart & Corry’s Flora of the North-East of Ireland, 3rd edn. Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast.

Text written by:
Paul Hackney